Jack's war years - the diary

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"Excerpts from Diary 1944?….."

This starts off very routinely but eventually goes on to tell of the end of the war and his long journey across Germany to find a plane home


Sun 2nd January


Haven't slept too well for a couple of nights; itching quite a lot.

Tues 4th January

Machine started up.  Big felt broke about 10.30 - now have to await arrival of new felt.  By 8.30pm I'd eaten ¾ of a 1½kg loaf issued tonight.

Wed 5th Jan

Other half of night shift to work at 7.  We were going in at 1, but at 8.30 a felt arrived so we're on nights.  This does not prevent them wanting those who started at 7 to go back to unload 2 trucks and then do 12 hours work tonight.  When 'chef' was tackled he said "I thought you'd be pleased to do it".  When told we weren't he said "You'll be sorry about it". 1.0am everyone except Rogers, the Mables(?) and English returned to quarters for no given reason.  The way they were talking we are all expecting to be returned to the big camp.  The felt broke within 10mins of it being put on.

Thurs 6th Jan

It has snowed on and off for a week.

Fri 7th Jan

Received November's pay - 26Mk 10Pf.  Some of the lads received mail.  Rogers had fall and was taken unconscious to Döbeln.

Sat 8th Jan

Parcels came - 2 + 100 cigarettes

Sun 9th Jan

All the room had no sleep last night - (parcels). Up for meal at 1.30.  Stayed up for an hour.  Up again at 3.20 & 4.0.

Tues 11th Jan

Touch of toothache.

Wed 12th Jan

Bloke came from Döbeln to get us to select a "confidence" man.  Len English chosen.

Thurs 13th Jan

7 Canadian and 1 American Xmas parcels arrive.  Spare time spent reading, cleaning up etc.

Sun 16th Jan

Awakened by bugs at 3.0am  Only dozed till 5.30 when I got up.  7.30 breakfast - ½lb sausage, 6oz fried bully, 4 slices fried bread, 2 slices bread, butter & marmalade.  11.0am 2 slices toast & marmalade, 3 slices bread, butter & marmalade, coffee 'au lait' - very much 'au lait'.  Midday Jerry food - 7 spuds, a little meat, 1pt gravy.  Prunes & cream.  5.0pm Salmon & spuds made into fish cakes, prunes & cream.  Bread & cheese (toasted).

Tues 18th Jan

Red Cross kit arrives - trousers, pants, socks & pullovers.  Tooth still aching.

Sun 23rd Jan

Scared myself when I looked in ' mirror - all ribs and stomach.

Mon 24th Jan

In bed with stomach - no work

Tues 25th Jan

Letter from Nip (his eldest brother, Charles - known in the family as Nipper) - first one.  Everyone OK thank goodness.  December pay 37.50Rm (Reichmarks),

Fri 28th Jan

New guard arrived.  Hans has left.

Thurs 3rd Feb

Had just got to bed when "roused" again by bloke come to disinfect room.

Fri 4th Feb

Saw civvy doctor

Sat 5th Feb

Received tablets for chest

Sun 13th Feb

Still plenty of snow around

Mon 14th Feb

New shifts start 5am - 3.30pm; 12.30pm - 11.0pm

Wed 16th Feb

Unloaded coal at station.  Watched kids ski-ing & sledging.  Jaw swollen, but tooth doesn't ache - yet!

Thurs 17th Feb

Wagon at 5.0; just finished as train drew up at 7.30.  Willi acted like a madman - jumped up and down on hearing train, threw down shovel and ran up ramp calling "Alles mann".

Sun 20th Feb

Red X kit issued - shaving stick, hair brush & note book.  Also half a dozen new books (rather highbrow!)

Thurs 24th Feb

A dozen or so PPs (personal parcels) arrived addressed Italy. Unlucky.  Found numerous "Times" as late as 18th Oct.  Good reading.

Tues 29th Feb

Had 16 letters - 14 addressed Italy

Sat 4th Mar

3rd NOK (next of kin parcel) arrived.  3½lb Choc.

Tues 7th Mar

Tooth aching.  Truck of alum made it worse.  Left work because of tooth-ache.

Wed 8th Mar

Had no sleep with tooth last night.  Roßwein to Dentist.  Tooth filled.

Sat 11th Mar

Rain, sleet & snow

Sun 12th Mar

Wrote to Paymaster

Tues 14th Mar

Area "confidence man" brought playing cards, boxing gloves, skipping rope & games.

Sun 19th Mar

Film at Roßwein - French - couldn't follow it very well, but it made a pleasant change. Played 'Big Business'.

Thurs 23rd Mar

Dentist again.  18Rm for filling 3 teeth.

Wed 29th Mar

NOK received.  1st addressed here.

Fri 31st Mar

Trouble when unter offiziers came - unpunctured tins, stuff under beds, no red patches.

Sun 2nd Apl

Out on green - boxing & football.

Mon 3rd Apl

New 'posten' arrived.  Erich to go over Friday's 'do'.

Sun 9th Apl

Easter Day.  Pictures - left here 8.30, back 11.40.  Afternoon outside - football, tug-of-war, sparring.

Mon 10th Apl

Played bridge; played with kids (skipping).

Wed 12th Apl

Finished off bread.  1½Kg issued last night.

Fri 14th Apl

Lovely & warm & sunny all this week - seems longer than a fortnight ago that it was raining.

Sun 16th Apl

Missed train with wagon.  Willi speechless.  Getting along famously with kids.  2 rubbers of bridge

Thurs 25th Apl

Bitter wind, rain & hail

Wed 26th Apl

Expected a "gangster raid" so put this "out of sight". …"

No more of this year was copied/recorded.

 Copies of "The Camp"                       Details of Food Parcels etc

1945 .............


Fri 13th Apl

"Enemy in area" sounded - rumour of tanks in Chemnitz & Döbeln.  Stood outside expecting to see our lads coming along the road - no such luck!

Sat 14th Apl

2 Thunderbolts came over and shot up Döbeln station.  "Tanky" and George Wise "ferte(?)" (not missed)

Sun 15th Apl

Thunderbolts & Lightnings active in Meissen direction

Mon 16th Apl

Awakened 8.0am (by Pop) - "Wir sind ferte". Eventually left at 9.30 - villagers crying. Gave much kit away and got some cake for it. Seven blokes hidden in factory George not interested, so agreed to go with him. Marched into Roßwein with kit in 'Steamboat's' cart. Left there at noon for Lomatz [Lommatzsch] Didn't make it. Put up in barn at 10pm about 10Km out of Lomatz - place called Dreissing.[Dreißig]

Tues 17th Apl

Owner of farm gave us coffee. Left 8ish made Lomatz 1ish. Hung around with police trying to decide where we should go. About 3.0pm told to go to Meissen. Went to first village (about 5Km) and put up for the night. People very friendly, gave us spuds & "quark" in evening. Flogged vest & pants for 2Kg loaf.

Wed 18th Apl

Made Meissen middayish - were sent on to a military barracks across the Elbe & out of town. Stayed there 4 hours. Had pea soup 1½Kg bread between 5. Marched 7Km from there to Großdobritz where e met up with all the rest of the working camps in the area (including English, Tye and Lumley who we'd left in the factory)

Thurs 19th Apl

Thunderbolts and "crushers" busy quite close here - probably Reisa. Bread 1½Kg between 5. Barley 1 pt between 2.

Fri 20th Apl

Bread 1½/5, barley & spinach soup (1pt). Back to first prisoner days - just lounging about. No authentic news "wenig essen". Possibility (we're told) of a 120Km march either today or tomorrow ending on other side of Elbe. Don't believe it.

Sat 21st Apl

Moved off at 1.0am; fairly moonlit; into Meissen again over Elbe and then south; passed Dresden-Chemnitz autobahn. Did somewhere about 35Km. Nearest village Pohrsdorf. No bread; spuds about 7pm - good "do"!

Sun 22nd Apl

All day on bed. Barley midday (1 pt). Spuds in evening. Bitterly cold - rain & sleet. Rumours rife - Yanks in Freiburg; French panzer spitzen in vicinity; if alarm goes we're to be moved on.

Mon 23rd Apl

Not moving today. Feldwebel told Panger (haupt-verteilman) that he expects us to be here till peace. Today's rumour - 2hr armistice; English & American ambassadors withdrawn from Moscow; peace talks going on - it's anticipated the outcome will be that we'll join Germany against the Russkis. Again no bread. 1pt barley midday. Pinched some spuds so did most others. Result - no spuds tonight.

Tues 24th Apl

1pt barley - nothing else

Wed 25th Apl

2Kg spuds per man. Made 3 meals. In evenings 1pt barley

Fri 27th Apl

250 grammes bread (for 4 days) 2oz (approx) meat, candy syrup 156gr. Sugar 2oz approx issued for 7 days rations. Also barley & potato meal & potatoes for use tonight. Moved off 10.30 through wooded country - landed up at 10.0pm after about 30-35Km at (could not determine).

Sat 28th Apl

Made spud stew & barley with candy syrup.  Had spuds & then made barley & had that with the result that now (2.0pm) I feel fuller than I have for many a day.  Spud meal & kraut soup in evening (1pt)

Sun 29th Apl

Up 7.0ish to get ready to leave.  Supposed to leave at 9.0; left at 10.45.  250 gr bread.  Marched 18-20Km through Fraunstein [Frauenstein] Mulde [Mulda] to Helbigsdorf.  Latest rumour - England USA & Germany against Russia expected as result of San Francisco conference.  Did march with only 1 halt - about 5hrs marching.

Mon 30th Apl

Up 7.30 for roll-call.  Made potato & dried veg soup.  Made mint tea brew midday.  Soup again 4.0pm.  Farmer has given us pound of spuds a man.  Latest rumour - Russians in Döbeln; we didn't see eye-to-eye with Russia over Polish question and as a result have ceased activities in West.  Jerry withdrew troops from south to guard Berlin & we didn't take advantage of this.  Later rumour Yanks linked up with Russians in Reisa - we occupy it as it is on west bank of the Elbe.  Germany wants capitulation with us but not with Russia - we say "geht's nicht" and everyone was waiting to see what will happen

Tues 1st May

R's birthday.  Up at 7 for roll-call then fetched wood at 8.0am.  Pinched a pocketful of greens on the way.  Had barley & oats boiled up when we returned.  Then greens, then brew.  Roll call 2.0pm.  Today's rumour - Germany have accepted capitulation; government's not for discussion. Later - we have demanded capitulation and have not yet received reply.  More griff from an American speaking postern (supposed to be wearing civvies under uniform) - Germany more or less given in and we are now just waiting for big boys to get together.  No fighting on any front.  This afternoon when lads went fetching wood Jerry troops in woods were packing up & "ferte"-ing. Their Feldwebel has told them to.  Lads strolled over to them & they said without being asked "Krieg vorbei".  Another bundled up his blankets, gave them to a kid & told him to run home with them.  One gave his rifle to one of the lads saying he didn't want it.

Wed 2nd May

Awakened at 7.0am for roll call; held inside - reason - ground covered with snow; sleet falling; got up about 11.0 made brew - made meal about 3.0pm.  Today's rumour - Hitler has been killed in battle.  Admiral Doenitz new Fuhrer.  He says England and America should leave jerry alone to continue their struggle with Russia.  Other griff - French a few Kms from Döbeln.  Red Cross commission in Döbeln & it's full of American officers.  Am reading, off & on "Cricket between two wars" by Plum Warner.

Thurs 3rd May

Normal daily routine.  Up 7; roll call; back to "bed".  Up 9.30 to make brew; again at 11.30 for making soup; wash in afternoon; 3 cigs (French) issued today.  Have decided to cease keeping account of rumours as there are so many flying about.  They all seem to point to the fact that we won't have to exist like thismuch longer.  We're all real "hayseeds" - straw everywhere.  2 days rations today - for Friday & Saturday - bread 1500grammes between 7, 1 spoonful sugar; little barley; potato meal, sugar 25gr marg.  Bread & marg eaten tonight.

Sat 5th May

Pouring with rain all day; could do nothing.  Rations for 2 days up in evening.  Much the same.  Bread 200gms.

Sun 6th May

Still raining - get wet trying to make brew at 10.0am - had to abandon brew; same thing mid-day.  Loaf 1½Kg/3 supposed not to affect tomorrow's ration.  Got really wet making brew in afternoon so am anticipating a cold night.

Mon 7th May

Up early to make a move - fleeing from Russians. Roads jammed with evacuees. Marched 20 odd kms then found there was no place for us to sleep so had to go on another 8-10kms. When we arrived at last civvies told us war finished. Arrived 9.30pm told we were moving at 3.0am in morning for 30-40Km march to Yank lines - without rations - unless they happen to catch up with us - and that's not likely as thing's are - delivered in cart drawn by oxen. Zwönten [Zwönitz]

Tues 8th May

Moved off somewhere around 4 at a run - soon beat us & we slowed up a bit. At moment am enjoying about a hour's rest. Goy fed up with speed of convoy and as no chance of rations & and at midday George, Nobby & I took off to look after ourselves. First town we entered had feed and wireless was turned on for Churchill's speech. Heard that, moved off. Put up for night in barn had a few spuds. Had asked for place to sleep in farm earlier & had been told "go and sleep with the Americans"  Lößnitz for the night

Wed 9th May

Up 5.30; wash; farmer's wife gave us a sandwich each.  Set off walking.  Got 2Kms on way got picked up by 2 Yanks in a Jerry Red Cross car who drive us into Hacherstein [Hartenstein].  Here we waited for a while; got a cup of coffee.  Nobby gave soap for bread and we ate that.  Later we were moved on to a cross-road where we helped the Yanks search Jerries as they came in.  Took some bread & meat off one and we ate that.  Pocket knife and torchlight collected.  Taken from there to Zwicken [Zwickau] on lorry; given K rations (breakfast) - 8 biscuits, 3½oz Chopped pork & eggs, coffee mixture, 4 cigs, 4 cubes sugar, 2 fruit chewing gums.  An hour or so later walked to a field ¼ mile away to await transport.  Here we had another K ration - supper this time.  3½oz pork, 3 biscuits, 2gum, 2oz chocolate, bouillion (to be mixed).  It is now 3.40pm moved off at 5.0pm 40Kms to Gera.  Landed in Allied PoW camp.  We're told we'd be on our way to Blighty within 36hrs.  Got disinfected -spray.  Registered; issued with another K ration; given letter to send home then taken to civvy billets.  Had clean up; washed and shaved; wrote letter; cleared out kit to be dumped; had our our supper; now it's after 10 and time for bed.  Just as I got in bed they came round and said parade at 8.0am, rations 9.0am, move off to Erfurt at some time during day.

Thurs 10th May

Paraded at 8.30 after a rather restless night through over-feeding - billiousness - K-rations too rich!  Divided into groups of 25 for transport.   Told we get rations at 9.0am.  It is now 11 and we're still waiting.  Expect to move out sometime today ........

Below is a photo of a Dutch soldier who befriended Jack whilst in hospital in 1943/1944.  On the Postcard reverse of this photo it reads

"To my friend A.J.Hann from his Dutch friend Willem as a memory to the time spent in the German Hospital from 5/12 1943 till 6/1 1944* - Don't forget Lefty(?) Your friend Willem"

and gives the following address - Willem vd Walle, Molenstraat 3, Strijen, Zuid Holland

*This date is probably incorrect as by 4 January 1944 Jack was back at camp (see above).  He had not arrived until October 1943 and the dates of the first part of the diary overlap the dates in the latter part (definitely 1945) so must refer to different years

30 April 1942 - somewhere in North Africa

Jack presumably got back to Blighty not long after as on 19 Sep 1945 he was re-classified as Storeman (Ammunition) when posted to the Central Ammunition Depot at Bramley near Basingstoke in Hampshire.  Here he met W/318853 Dean, Gladys Lillian (Pte), 'K' Company, North Aldershot S/D Group, Auxiliary Territorial Service on attachment to No. 1 Explosive Disposal Unit, Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) as Storewoman, Group C, Class II. Their jobs involved working in underground bunkers disarming explosive shells etc.  On 10th April 1946 they were married and on 12th November 1946, following a short time at the Central Ammunition Depot, Hawthorn (now MoD Corsham), Wilts, dad was demobbed.  When his army service finished, he and his new wife returned to his family's home at Rownhams, near Southampton for a short time lodging in the neighbouring house (1 Salisbury Villas)

He was awarded the 1939-1945 Star, the Africa Star and the War Medal 1939-1945 but once told me he was "done out of" another medal - by my estimation, this would probably be the War Medal 


the happy couple on honeymoon




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